Why Texas Tech football is in better shape now than one year ago

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(Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)

As the 2019 season approaches, the Texas Tech football program finds itself in much better shape than it did this time last year despite undergoing a coaching change.

My wife’s favorite musical is Rent, which she made me watch for the first time a few months ago.  I hated almost every moment of it.  In fact, the only part of the movie I liked was the opening song Seasons of Love, which is known for a famous line that is rather appropriate when thinking about where the Texas Tech football program is:

“Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure – measure a year?”

As the 2019 football season draws near, we are about to wake from our summer sports slumber and embark on another unpredictable three-month icecream headache that is Texas Tech football. And it’s only natural to think about how much has changed in just a year.

Certainly, the most obvious change is the hiring of Matt Wells to replace the fired Kliff Kingsbury.  That’s a change that will not only define the direction of Red Raider football but will have long-lasting ramifications on the entire university as well as the career trajectory of Kirby Hocutt.

But think about other changes we have seen over the past year.  For instance, at this time last year, virtually no one expected Antoine Wesley to be anything more than a replacement-level receiver as he stepped in for the graduated Dylan Cantrell after not having started a game in his collegiate career.

All he did was go on to put up 1,410 yards and nine touchdowns, one of the greatest single-season performances in program history.  What makes his 2018 even more remarkable is that he had the third-best single-season yardage output in Tech history in a season that saw the Red Raiders start three different quarterbacks in at least two games.  Now, we are all wondering how the Red Raiders will replace him this season.

Speaking of unexpected turns over the last twelve months, how much money could you have made in Vegas if you would have bet last August that Kliff Kingsbury would open the 2019 season as an NFL head coach?  Though we all saw him on the sidelines Thursday night in his first preseason game as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, it is still surreal to see a man who went 35-40 at Tech parlay that resume into one of most coveted jobs in the world.

What’s more, consider how the image of Matt Wells has changed in just one year.  At this time last summer, he was coming off his third-straight losing season with Utah State (though two of those seasons were 6-6 regular seasons) and was not considered a rising star likely to jump to the Power 5 level as was believed to be the case with North Texas’ Seth Littrell and Troy’s Neal Brown (who is now at West Virginia).

But Wells led the Aggies to a 10-2 regular season giving Hocutt the type of success he would need to point to as justification for hiring the coach he had been closely monitoring since 2013.  It is safe to assume that had Kingbury not pulled out the 27-24 comeback win in Austin to close the 2017 regular season, he would have been fired a year earlier than he was.  Had that been the case, it is difficult to see how Hocutt could have justified to his superiors and his fan base the hiring of a man that had gone 15-23 in the three previous seasons.

Of course, at this time last year, the though of the Texas Tech basketball program being in the naitonal title game seemed like a wild fantasy and no Red Raider men’s team had ever won a naitonal title. Thankfully, Chris Beard and Wes Kittley changed the reality surrounding both of those notions this spring.

Now, everyone in scarlet and black is hoping that Wells can do the same with the Texas Tech football program and start to change the negative perceptions that many have regarding where the Red Raiders are.  The good news is that in a number of ways, Tech football is in a far better situation this August than it was a year ago.

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